Pakistan Development Futures, 21st Century

Human conditions in the 21st century harkens for grand ideas. The Global Security architecture will change exponentially over the next decade; Climate Change although will be the driving force of many developed nations’ foreign policies seeking developmental interventions in slow-paced economies of the world; yet it will have little or no impact at human-level. Since the future is distributed amongst the haves and the haves not; the only factor we’d see playing a greater role in the development sector in 2016 is the use of technology and innovation in closing the gap between the rich and the poor. The opportunities offered by science and technology to improve unemployment and economic divide essentially rests within the domain of the political realm. Much of the transformation leading to positive outcomes will inherently be reflected in the narratives placing higher value on human dignity. It is imperative for the international development sector to demonstrate the ability to discover and construct new metaphors challenging muddled thinking and status-quo. Policing a singular approach will be an unrespectable notion in humanizing public interest interventions. The focus of the non-governmental individuals (NGIs) should be to automate and digitize to accelerate change in overcoming society’s colossal challenges such as conflict and chaos, education and health, scarcity of resources.

Moronic failures, leadership void, a state still pondering over whether to get its act together or not; there are people like Dr. Adib Rizvi and Abdul Sattar Edhi living NGIs and not just legends, these are superhumans who have been giving back, giving their all. Yet when we compare their value-based development models to the rest of Islamabad’s; we sense some shocking disappointments. Even though Children in Thar die everyday. There is no visible Government-led development intervention that prevents babies in this country from dying. Moving slightly north, the horrific response of PML-N Ministers to Kasur child sexual abuse is yet another despicable example of sheer complacency; let alone the inability to deal with high profile natural disasters. The meager media coverage of socio-economic constraints of interior Sindh and southern Punjab bordering inhumane conditions is equally deplorable. The impression one gathers from the conduct of the judiciary is that of a state instrument which has simply looked the other way capitulating to its own inefficiencies.

The donor community, either unilateral or multilateral in nature are usually driven by strategic and economic interests. The capacity of the development sector in Pakistan to systematically institutionalize public sector service delivery is severely limited despite influx of enormous foreign funding funneled in to the country. This has not helped the market to expand to its full potential; therefore the impact of the projects have been extremely narrow which are ordinarily not integrated in the national economic grid. There is a severe disconnect amongst the Ministries of Planning, Development and Reforms, Finance and Economic Affairs Division.

Diminishing trust and lack of confidence between the state and the society is leading to weakening societal norms challenging economic and political stability causing social unrest leading communal violence. While, the Governments globally are eager to embrace the sustainable development goals (SDGs); in some cases several have failed miserably to meet the benchmarks set forth by the millennium development goals (MDGs) – Pakistan is one of them; administratively paralyzed as it was when adopting the declaration back in 2000 and as it will be when embracing the SDGs. The signs and indicators of progress have been insufficient to meet the mounting needs of a growing population.

The responsibility-accountability arc of responsiveness remains on the backburner for Pakistan. Although this void is more often overcome by the not-for-profit sector or the civil society organizations where even the non-governmental individuals play a significant role. However, these segments of the society will be required to become dynamic and resilient; mechanization of delivering across unexpected and provocative human security needs will be counter-productive, which will hamper exponential progress; as the silos within which they function is usually off the government agencies’ radar.

The development organizations to function in an highly uncertain circumstances in Pakistan will need to become futures-centric driven; the components leading to such a framework are based on three pillars i) openness ii) values-based iii) transformative. Development futurists should explore rapid adoption of emerging technologies, keeping a closer view on social trends anticipating change and effectively dealing with the unforeseen, reformulating responses towards complex setbacks in a precipitously changing environment. Those not co-thinking futures, continuing to Photoshop reality will obfuscate it labeling it as an ‘skimpy-perspective’ will lose. The dimensions of reality will be determined by the actors performing and not by the observers analyzing. Knowledge entrepreneurs will have a much more critical role in drawing the line between the real and the fabricated. The young will name and shame those who are greedy and hypocrites in the development discourse.

This is an un-edited version. Originally this article was published by the Express Tribune, affiliate with the International New York Times:

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